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Live: The Born Ruffians, The Acorn, The Meligrove Band

September 20, 2009

Born Ruffians

As I traverse the late stages of my twenties, I find myself starting to grow leery of all-ages events.

I’m not old, don’t get me wrong. I’m merely old enough that the idea of being surrounded by teenagers taking pictures of themselves is usually enough to deter me from seeing a show.

Still, I braved the Opera House on Saturday night in order to check a lineup of loveable local talent: The Meligrove Band, The Acorn and headliners The Born Ruffians. It was The Shit (in a good way).

Openers The Meligrove Band are an act that I thought would blow up when I first heard them, but never really caught on despite being a popular campus radio band and getting considerable hype from the Canadian indie press. According to lead singer Jason Nunes, the group’s long anticipated second album is currently being mastered and expected to release within the next “couple of weeks”. As such, I was a little surprised that Meligrove played only a few new songs during its half-hour set, but old familiars from their LP Planets Conspire sounded great and they closed with roaring crowd pleaser “Our Love Will Make The World Go Round” .

As a side note, part of the reason Meligrove has such a distinctive sound has always been Nunes’ piano contribution, but of all the times I’ve seen them he’s only had a real piano once, instead preferring to just play guitar. That one show with the piano was by far my best experience. Nitpicking, I know, but just sayin’.

Next up were The Acorn, who upon walking on stage and feeling the ambience wasn’t quite coffeehouse enough, strung up some LED christmas lights on their microphone stands. The crowd loved it. Somewhere, my inner curmudgeon cracked a wry smile.

The Acorn have gained a following by playing bedroom music — tunes that sound like they were made in a bedroom, perfect for listening to in … your bedroom. Preferably late at night. Ploughing through essentially all of their album Glory Hope Mountain, the Ottawa band had the swelling exuberance waving lighters and tapping feet en mass as acoustic jams such as “Crooked Legs” and “Oh Napoleon” captured all the nuance of their studio efforts, but with a vibrancy and energy I’d never have guessed the band possessed.

With each member of the band playing multiple instruments, including two drummers, two ukelele’s and four plaid shirts, the Acorn managed to transform their sound from lonely city streets to bright city lights without losing any of their solitary and dreamy (ok, I’ll say it; emo) essence. I was impressed by their energy and can see why their shows are consistently sold out. Also, their lead singer looks like Bret from Flight of the Conchords.

It should be noted that to complete the “cute Ontario indie-bands” motif of this show, the sound guy was playing the new Ohbijou album in-between sets. I was half expecting a hugging contest to break out in the crowd, but I digress.

By the time The Born Ruffians took the stage, the building was ready to boil over. One thing I’ve noticed about the Ruffians is that their shows largely attract friends and family. This was highlighted when they shouted out their childhood town of Midland, Ontario and almost half the crowd exploded. In fact, a conversation behind me consisted mainly of a guy talking about how he knew the band from his high school. I had the distinct impression this was not an uncommon topic on this night.

Playing to an extremely drunk, young, energetic and friendly crowd, the Toronto threesome did not disappoint. Produced by Animal Collective and Panda Bear veteran Rusty Santos, the Ruffians are almost diametrically opposed to those acts — immediately accessible and focused on having a good time.

Unlike Meligrove, the headliners devoted over half their set to new material, sharing that they were taking a break from studio recording to play this show — admittedly the biggest they had ever performed.

I couldn’t make out any titles or lyrics to the new songs, but from what I heard they seem to be a fairly natural evolution of the band’s sound; slightly more mellow while pushing their already unique arrangements towards longer and more idiosyncratically structured rhythms.

But that’s not what all the kids came to see.

Foot stomping crowd favourites such as “Hummingbird” and “Foxes Mate for life” were sprinkled in along with almost all of their buzzy power-pop singalong anthems from LP Red, Yellow & Blue.

By the time they closed their set with “Barnacle Goose“, I thought the building was going to implode. After the final song, they came out for a two song encore dedicated to “Steve,” who apparently has been with them since “the beginning” and was waving from the crowd. That was followed by what seemed to be an unintelligible garage jam session. More importantly however, the crowd screamed through all of it and the three band members stayed on stage for a good 10 minutes afterwards high-fiving everyone towards the front of the audience then jumping into the sea of humanity and being carried away.

I don’t really know what happened, but it sure seemed to be awesome.

To be young again.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. jeflee permalink*
    September 21, 2009 3:20 pm

    I really love Meligrove, and not just cuz they went to my highschool. I always thought they would blow-up on some Sloan-level Canadian fame, but hey. Maybe it was the lack of piano playing.

  2. Simon permalink*
    September 21, 2009 3:25 pm

    Me too man, I think they’re amazing. I think I have high standards for them because I expect them to blow the crowd away and get really huge.

  3. jessekg permalink*
    September 22, 2009 1:37 pm

    Speaking of, there was rumours that they would sign to Sloan’s murder records. I remember interviewing chris murphy and him basically saying that if Meligrove wasn’t already signed they would be all over them.

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